Lynx’s recent struggles epitomized by Moore’s uncharacteristic play
MINNEAPOLIS — With the spotlight on her as usual, Maya Moore graciously beamed at 8,957 spectators Sunday afternoon at the Target Center as she received her third consecutive WNBA Western Conference player of the month award. Moore came off a WNBA Finals MVP performance and in May emerged as a frontrunner for the same season-long honor, scorching opponents with perhaps women’s basketball’s most well-rounded skill set.
But that was May. And this is June 15.
Since the calendar flipped, Moore has gone from league-best wringer to slumping superstar. She’s shooting 33.8 percent from the floor in five June games, including Sunday afternoon’s home loss to Phoenix.
Moore came into the day shooting 13.6 percent from 3-point range after making half her long-range attempts and averaging 29.2 points during the season’s first five contests.
The second five have been a polar opposite for both Moore and a team that’s lost three of its past four contests — tying Minnesota’s worst four-game stretch since 2010.
"It’s one of those things, like when you’re scoring 30-plus, everything you throw up . . . feels good, it looks goes good and goes in," Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said before Sunday’s 80-72 setback. "Now, there’s no question that I’m sure she’s thinking about it, she’s a little bit stressed, she wants to help and she knows that that’s a big way she can help."
To get out of it, Reeve said, her fourth-year forward that’s succeeded at every level of basketball needs to be a little more passive. That’s not in accord with Moore’s killer instinct, but passing up heavily contested looks and "letting the game come to her" should help her get back on track, Reeve said.
Moore herself told FOXSportsNorth.com she hasn’t been getting to the free-throw line enough, either. She’s attempted nine foul shots in the past four games and didn’t take any Sunday.
"I’m not changing anything as far as my preparation or the things at practice, the way I prepare, just making sure I’m mentally ready for every game," said Moore, who scored 14 points on 6-of-18 (2-for-9 from 3) shooting Sunday. "It’s just a matter of going out on the court and getting it done."
It’s not that she hasn’t been solid in other areas. Moore’s rebounding and defensive energy haven’t waned, which makes it difficult for Reeve to sub her out even during a sustained cold spell.
On the year, Moore averages a career-high nine boards and 1.9 steals per game.
"When she’s on the floor, good things happen," said Reeve, whose team is now 8-3 after a 7-0 start. "That’s one of the things I struggle with; after the game, going with ‘gee, should I have gone to somebody else?’ and I always get to the answer of ‘no’ because of all the other things that she does."
Furthermore, one star’s temporary woes don’t an early-season pothole dig.
Minnesota still sports the WNBA’s best record but slipped up during a four-game road swing to commence the month of June. Sunday was especially frustrating as the Lynx trailed by as many as 23 against a rival that hadn’t defeated the Lynx since 2011, a span of 10 contests.
Becoming the second team in a row to score 50 first-half points against Minnesota, Phoenix (7-3) led big until a reserve group of Tan White, Monica Wright — making her first appearance of the season after undergoing preseason knee surgery — and rookies Asia Taylor, Tricia Liston and Damiris Dantas cut it to six inside the final half minute. Reeve drew two technical fouls for arguing with the officials but remained on the bench after the second was deemed non-unsportsmanlike, a caveat that overrules the automatic ejection that usually comes with multiple technicals.
She didn’t have as much to share with the media afterward. After a brief opening statement and no immediate questions from reporters, she walked back to the coaches’ office.
It’s the most difficult gauntlet of the season for the Lynx, who on Sunday played the second of six games in 10 days after their longest road trip of the campaign. But after that, Minnesota has seven of nine games at home from June 29-July 25.
And their star’s dry stint, in all likelihood, is just as temporary.
"I’m sure that’s not gonna last very long," said Phoenix guard Diana Taurasi, who led all scorers Sunday with 21 points and is a Connecticut alumna like Moore. "Players like that, she can shoot herself back into players of the month and players of the week. Maya’s gonna be fine."
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